East Texas Health Project
Northeast Texas is a large, primarily rural region of the state that has alarming health and mental health disparities. The region suffers from some of the highest rates of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more common in Northeast Texas when compared to state and national averages. Furthermore, individuals with depression, anxiety, or PTSD have a higher risk of developing other chronic conditions (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.).
Treatment of mental health conditions can alleviate these comorbid conditions; however, many of these health conditions remain untreated or undertreated due to increased barriers to care faced by rural communities, which incurs extra healthcare costs. Particularly for mental health services, Northeast Texas suffers from a chronic shortage of mental health providers, long waitlists for behavioral health services, and increased travel time and costs for patients seeking treatment. These issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which challenged many individuals with additional stressors and allowed for discussions about mental health in a meaningful way. Additionally, the disparities that already existed in regions like Northeast Texas were potentially exacerbated by the pandemic.
The East Texas Health Project is funded by the Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) for which Professor Karan P. Singh serves as the principal investigator. The project is a study of the Affordability Cures Research Initiative-Examining the Social and Economic Costs of Undertreated Mental Health Conditions Among Underserved Individuals living in an Underserved and Primarily TX Rural Northeast Texas. The project team is an interprofessional group of clinical psychologists, epidemiologists, health economists, and health services researchers. The team seeks to identify health conditions and health care costs for Northeast Texas residents who have undertreated or untreated mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety).
The goal of this project is to implement a time and cost-effective behavioral health intervention that can help improve mental health, quality of life, enhance self-management of medical comorbidities, and potentially reduce healthcare costs.